Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cracking Open Doors.

The church on the Maforga compound.
As the count down to my time in Mozambique was coming to an end, I couldn’t tell if God was closing the door there, or if it just looked closed because too much junk was in front of it.

I’d spent a full month praying and knocking on the Ministry of Health’s door. Every week and sometimes twice or three times a week, Roy or some other emissary would stop in to set up an interview with the director. But each time we got the run around.

I laid the interview with the MOH out as a sort of fleece, asking God to guide me in relation to my future here in terms of the kind of favor they granted me. If they wouldn’t even meet with me, obviously I was supposed to go elsewhere.

I knew the battle was being fought in the heavenlies, and that I was supposed to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). However, there is just so much nonsense I’m willing to put up with.

If they were unwilling to play ball, I was not going to beg them.

Naturally, I talked to Roy about this quite often. And as the days passed, he was in much prayer with me concerning this apparent ‘closed door’. So as the month came to the inevitable end, we all redoubled our prayers.

For me, the break happened on the Sunday before I left.

Roy asked me to come and speak before the church and tell them what God had been showing me during my stay. I told him that I’d be happy to share, but that I still did not have anything definite.

Why?

Well, for three reasons really. One: the Ministry of Health (MOH) wasn’t granting me an interview; two: the midwifery school in Chimoio wouldn’t let me know if we were to work together or not (sorry, that’s a story I never told you); and three: I’d been hearing rumors of mass corruption within the system.

One nurse I had met applied to get her nursing license approved so she could work in Mozambique THREE years ago. She is still waiting.

What? Come on! Three years of waiting... and the government has still not granted her permission to work. What a waste!

Frankly, when I hear things like this I cannot help but worry that anything I try to do will be met with the same stubborn willfulness --the same myopic xenophobia. What then?

I voiced these clear and present concerns with Roy to see if they were valid. They were. So we prayed... and then prayed some more.

Meanwhile, the spiritual attacks each night were intensifying.

Lord, is Mozambique what You’d have for me next? If so... won’t you at least grant me a meeting with the Ministry of Health?

Like I said. The answer came... or at least something spiritually broke open that Sunday when I went forward to speak.

There I stood humming and hawing about what God had shown me as I addressed the church. I had to admit to all these tiny, expectant faces that God had not said a word. It wasn’t a ‘No’, but it sure wasn’t a ‘Yes’ either.

As I finished, Roy called all the kids up to pray for me (Note: the church is made of missionaries and orphans. There are roughly 100 orphans and a dozen missionaries.). He told them that he and Trish really wanted me to come back, and that we needed God to speak.

Within seconds a mob of kids surrounded me; some grabbed my shins, others took hold of any part of me they could reach. My hair. My arms. My clothes.

Layers of orphans encircled me, then we all bent our heads in prayer.

Having fifty-plus orphans pray over you in tongues is not an experience you soon forget. And I knew that God had heard and was ready to move. I just didn’t know how He’d do it.

Me, Trish & Roy at church.
The next morning God spoke to Roy, Trish, and I all individually during our personal devotions, promising us amazing things and exhorting us not to lose heart. With these promises on our lips, Trish and I rode off to Chimoio for one final attempt with the Ministry of Health.

If the door was still barred, then we’d take that as a sign that God had other plans in store. But if the door opened, we’d walk through it.

I was not nervous at all when we check in with the guard at the government building. He didn’t ask for my ID, but he did strain his neck to look at me closer then waved me through.

Walking through the tiled beehive of a building was strange though. Men and women hurried about in suits, barely taking the time to notice each other as they passed. But they all stopped to gawk at the tall foreigners.

We stuck out like sore thumbs.

After climbing four stories to the right floor, we checked in with the receptionist and asked to speak to the director of health. She came around her desk to greet us and within second ushered us in to the main office, by-passing three people who were there long before us.

As we stood in the doorway waiting, a slight man in an oversized suit was asked to wait outside and we were given his seats.

Trish and I smiled conspiratorially to one another as we sat down. We were in!

Nevertheless, the battle had just begun. Now we had to convince them our ideas were feasible and in the best interest of the nation.
    --Lord... work Your perfect will! Amen.

Trish spoke to the woman before us, but it soon became clear she was not the one in charge. Excusing herself, she returned with a man named Manual and left us to talk.

Manual found out that I was hoping to re-open the hospital and get my license to work in Mozambique, and he was immediately negative.

-- “To do this thing...” he started to explain in Portuguese, “is not possible. Not possible. Not good.” He puckered his lips for emphasis, then shook his head. He even turned to me and added in heavily accented English, “Not possible. Big problem.” Just in case I was not clear on his meaning.

Undeterred, Trish continued to explain the desire we had is not for me to do the work at the hospital but to hire a Mozambican nurse to take care of the babies. My focus would be in only training mozambican midwives, but that I needed to have permission to work for this to be possible.

This piqued his interest and he started asking more questions.

Far from convinced, he tried to give us a paper outlining how to apply for a work permit and then send us on our way. But neither or us moved. So he got up and went to another office across the hall, presumably to talk to a superior.

Ten minutes later he returned and sat down. He proceeded to outline the obstacles and Trish continued to just sit and talk to him. She didn’t move... so I didn’t more either.

But as she talked, his interest increased and she recounted the history of the hospital and all the good it had done over the years. It’s at this point he asked to see my diploma.

I had brought a copy just in case, and I handed it to him with a smile. He looked at it, then at me, then back at it.

It was in English. Naturally.

Adjusting the distance of the paper back and forth in front of his eyes while he read told me he was in desperate need of glasses.

He admired the golden seal at the bottom but struggled with the fancy calligraphy. Eventually, he pointed to the expiration date at the bottom and said, “This is no good. No good. No diploma has an expiration date.”

I laughed and then agreed, explaining that what I had brought him was in fact my NARM license. This gave me permission to practice in the States. It was better than a diploma, I tried to explain. But he was not buying it.

Diplomas don’t expire.

This led us into another long explanation. But since we were not in the least rattled, he realized that perhaps it wasn’t a problem after all.

By this time, an hour had easily passed.

Trish was still talking; I was still listening in, but I could only understand about 40% of what was being said. So I just sat there and prayed under my breath.

Every time Manual suggested another obstacle, Trish explained how we hoped to get around it. She was unflappable --the very essence of patience.

As I watched her dance around his questions and work through his imagined road-blocks, my admiration for her grew.

Trish, despite her tall frame and bleach blond hair, is every bit as African as Manual. She was born in Zimbabwe and educated in South Africa. She might not have the pigmentation in her skin, but cut it and she would bleed Africa --pure and simple.

I confess, I stopped listening after awhile. My brain drifted and I just enjoyed the moment.

Finally, Manual had become excited at the prospect of me coming. He walked us through the steps it would take to get my work permit, enumerating the papers I’d need.

-- “First you need your real diploma,” he teased. “Then you need a copy of your CV and letters of recommendations. Lastly, you need the police clearance from your country and any country you’ve worked in.”
-- “What? I need a police clearance for the other countries I worked in?” I asked. I knew I needed it from the States, but not for the other countries.
-- “Yes. The police clearance tells us if you have been arrested or done anything illegal in those countries,” he explained. “Maybe you are coming here to work because you were kicked out of your country for illegal practices.”

I had to acknowledge the reasonableness of this request... but I confess my faith wavered. How would I get a police clearance for the Philippines, Haiti, and South Sudan?

Oi Vey!

-- “Once you get these papers, then you can officially apply. From that date, you should have it in two months. Then you can come to Mozambique and open the hospital.”
-- “Two months?” I asked incredulously. “But I met a woman last week, she has been waiting three years and still has not had it approved.”
-- “Really?” he asked a bit suspiciously.
-- “How can we know that it won’t be the same for me?” we asked.

He just laughed and said, “All I know is it should take two months from when we mail it from here. What happens in Maputo... I cannot say.”

We had to laugh with him. This was African bureaucracy at its best.

Sigh.

But by this time... which I’d have to guess was at least an hour and a half after we started, perhaps more... Manual had decided he liked us. He smiled when he spoke, and he eagerly exchanged cell phone numbers with us.

The change in his countenance in this short time was remarkable. It was clearly something only God could do. He went from saying “Big problem” to “So you go back to America now, then in two months you come back.... that means you come back in November!”

We had to laugh at how unrealistic that was, then confessed, “Well, I cannot come in November. I promised my mother I’d spend time with her for Thanksgiving.” I was not even sure he knew what Thanksgiving was.
-- “Okay... so you come back in Christmas time... December?” he asked expectantly, grabbing my arm for emphasis.
-- “No. Christmas is too soon. Maybe January. Is January okay?” I queried.
-- “Yes. January. Very good. You come back in January,” he blurted happily as he shook our hands.

Both Trish and I left on cloud nine. The door hadn’t exactly flown wide opened... but it certainly had cracked open a bit.

Praise God!

Now please pray that I’m able to get these police clearances from the various countries I’ve worked in. -- Oi Vey! Also pray that if and when I apply for the proper visa, I’m granted it in two months --not in three years.

God can do this. He can do this and much much more. Please pray in faith that He will. Thanks.